On Friday, Ava DuVernay’s highly anticipated Netflix mini-series about the Central Park Five, When They See Us, finally got a full trailer. The four-part limited series puts the spotlight on the trial of a group of Harlem teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of rape and attempted murder in the late 1980s. The series will span 25 years — from the time they were named as suspects to when they were exonerated in 2002 — and their eventual settlement with New York City in 2014. The gut-wrenching trailer coincided with the 30th anniversary of the attack.
The series, which will be available to stream on Netflix in May, follows Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise — five teenagers of color who were convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. The young men were held accountable for the attack on a white female jogger in Central Park in 1989. Despite a lack of evidence, they were sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison. It wasn’t until 2002 that their convictions were vacated after a convicted murderer and serial rapist confessed to committing the crime. DNA evidence corroborated his admission.
“Why are they doing us like this?” one of the boys asks in the trailer.
“What other way they ever do us?” asks another.
“I don’t think we should admit to something we didn’t do,” says one toward the end of the trailer.
“Okay, we keep fighting,” one says fervently.
When director Ava DuVernay shared the trailer on Twitter, she made sure to call out president Donald Trump, who was a real estate magnate at the time of the trial. Back then, Trump led a campaign to make sure the boys went to prison. He went as far as to commission ads on New York City newspapers that encouraged lawmakers to “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY.”
It read: “How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!”
In 2014, when the Central Park Five settled with New York City and received $41 million for wrongful imprisonment, Trump doubled down. He wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News and said “my opinion on the settlement of the Central Park Jogger case is that it’s a disgrace” and “the recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the city.”
“On this exact day 30 years ago, a woman was raped in Central Park. Five black brown boys were framed for her rape,” DuVernay wrote on Twitter. “The story you know is the lie that police, prosecutors and Donald Trump told you. WHEN THEY SEE US is the story of the boys from their eyes and their hearts.”
To do justice to the story of the Central Park Five, DuVernay assembled an all-star cast and a team of powerful producers. Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media, Oprah Winfrey from Harpo Films, and Jane Rosenthal, Berry Welsh, and Robert De Niro from Tribeca Productions served as executive producers.
Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight), Jovan Adepo (Fences), Freddy Miyares (Elementary), Justin Cunningham (Succession) and Chris Chalk (12 Years a Slave) star as Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Jr., Kevin Richardson, and Yusef Salaam, respectively.
The cast also includes Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), Michael K. Williams (The Wire), John Leguizamo (Waco), Niecy Nash (Selma), two-time Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood (Quantico), and Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives).
When They See Us lands on Netflix on May 31.